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Road white-topping in Bengaluru: The good and the bad of it

MLAs select roads on their own but experts ask for caution.
Last Updated 16 July 2023, 14:03 IST

When B S Yediyurappa-led government constituted a committee to examine the cost-intensive white-topping project in 2019, the four-member team came up with a report that did not find any evidence of misappropriation of funds but went on to highlight the unscientific selection of roads, shoddy work and the poor quality of detailed project reports (DPRs).

The findings formed the basis for the expansion of the white-topping project in Bengaluru with the then BJP-led government proposing a network of another 114 km of white-topped roads at a cost of Rs 1,400 crore. The recent state budget has, however, cut the budget size to Rs 800 crore but announced a white-topping of 100 km of road.

While both governments were keen to white-top more number of roads, the report – submitted by retired PWD chief engineer Captain R R Doddihal and his team of experts – has been gathering dust. The 38-page report laid guidelines for the selection of roads, onboarding consultants and better monitoring of works.

As per the report, the Doddihal-committee suggested the selection of roads based on six criteria such as average daily traffic, utilities below the carriageway, the last time the road was asphalted, drainage status (is the road prone to waterlogging) etc. It had recommended asphalting of roads that are ‘L’ gradient, carries an effective drainage system or has no utilities under the road.

Sources in the BBMP, however, said the roads are generally selected by the MLAs based on the feedback they receive from citizens.

Shoddy work

So far, the BBMP has built over 150 km of white-topped roads in different parts of the city. Barring a few roads such as Kasturba Road, Nrupatunga Road, Gandhinagar, KR Road and Indiranagar etc., a good chunk of roads are poorly done. Plenty of undulations are seen on the white-topped portion of Outer Ring Road, Mysore Road, and Ulsoor Road (near the lake) as the road surface is not smooth.

Not just the motorists, even the Doddihal-report had flagged several quality failures after the committee inspected C V Raman Road, Kodigehalli Road, 8th Cross from Yeshwanthpur Circle, ORR near Hebbal etc. Some of the issues mentioned in the report are bitumen filling for joints not being done, the camber was not uniform, reinforcement bars not provided as per design etc, suggesting a better quality control mechanism.

As the project is cost-intensive, the government-appointed committee recommended several cost-saving measures including the use of materials such as stone dust instead of sand and cementitious material slag etc. Some of the other suggestions are: Reducing the package of each tender to less than Rs 100 crore to enable competitive bidding, adopting mechanical excavation instead of manual, experimenting with drains, footpaths, recharge pits and parking space and use of bars between two lanes etc.

KT Nagaraj, retired chief engineer of the BBMP said the asphalt roads can be constructed quickly but are prone to damage by rains. “Barring the longer time for construction, concrete roads tick many boxes as compared to asphalt roads. We depend on imported raw materials for asphalting roads while materials for concrete roads are available in India,” he said. “Ensuring the road is free from underground utilities is the key to the success of concrete roads.”

He also said the argument that white-topped roads are costlier than asphalt is not completely true. “The cost of white-topping a kilometre of stretch is almost the same as asphalting. The overall project cost looks high as additional works such as separate ducts for utilities, better footpaths, streetlights etc are incorporated in the project to ensure longevity,” KT Nagaraj, who advises Dy CM DK Shivakumar on technical matters, said.

Some motorists, however, were of the opinion that large-scale white-topping of roads is not good for the city as it could create urban heat islands. A few also felt the experience of riding on the asphalted road was far superior to concrete roads. “Spending money on concrete roads in the name of longevity is madness. Especially when their life is not proven anywhere in India. Every concrete road in Bengaluru which is about 5 years old is broken now. BBMP's first trial (MV Jayaraman Road) looks like a warzone road. So is the Suranjandas road,” a motorist said.

Phase I (2016-17)--- 93.47-kms for Rs 927.69 crore

Phase II (2017-18)--- 65.10-km for Rs 761 crore

(Work on both these phases is almost complete)

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(Published 15 July 2023, 16:11 IST)

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